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Rhine Christmas Markets River Cruise
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8 days

from $3,895 AUD

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Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include walking tours, visits to sites, safari drives, and easy hikes; and some days will have more physical activities such as longer hikes, kayaking, snorkeling, or biking.

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Premium expeditions are led by a National Geographic expert, an expedition team, or top guides, and tap into National Geographic's worldwide resources to allow for in-depth exploration and special access to sites and experts in the field. Itineraries are fully planned, with some free time. Accommodations are high-end or best available. Ground transportation and most meals and activities are included in the trip price.

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Expedition Overview

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EXPEDITION OVERVIEW
  • Experience the Christmas spirit like never before at some of Europe’s oldest and grandest Christmas markets.
  • Discover the rich history of the Rhineland as you explore magnificent cities in France, Germany, and the Netherlands alongside National Geographic experts.
  • Capture spectacular images of castle ruins and gothic churches, using tips and tricks from our accompanying National Geographic photographer.
  • Enjoy an exclusive behind-the-scenes visit to the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann; and explore Grube Messel pit, the famed fossil site featured in National Geographic magazine where “Ida”—the world’s most complete primate fossil—was found.
EXPERTS ON THIS TRIP

A National Geographic expert and photographer will accompany this trip, and we will meet local guides along the way.

Itinerary

Winter in northern Europe means the arrival of long nights, crisp snows, and dazzling celebrations of the holiday season. Cruise in comfort along the Rhine from Basel to Amsterdam, disembarking along the way to explore magical Christmas markets exhibiting customs unique to each city. Wander through medieval squares filled with the sounds of traditional carolers, the scents of mulled wine and spices, and the sparkle of ornamented Christmas trees. Browse stalls displaying delicate handmade trinkets and toys, explore fairytale castles and cathedrals decked with tinsel, and bring home holiday cheer to brighten the new year. As we sail these storied waterways, enjoy the freedom and flexibility to tailor the itinerary to your interests, choosing from a variety of available excursions at each port of call—and benefit from the insights provided by the National Geographic Expert and the National Geographic photographer who accompany us on the journey.

Day 1: Basel, Switzerland

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Embark our ship in Basel and settle into your spacious suite. This evening, gather for a welcome dinner and raise your glass to the beginning of a magical trip along the Rhine.

Day 2: Strasbourg, France

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Having alternated allegiances between France and Germany several times over the course of its 2,000-year history, Strasbourg is a fascinating cultural amalgam that boasts spectacular Romanesque, Gothic, and baroque architecture. Enjoy a guided tour of the city, including the historic Grand Île, a UNESCO World Heritage site. As you stroll the enchanting cobblestone streets, marvel at half-timbered houses and stroll across the Ponts Couverts, a trio of covered medieval bridges. During your free time, explore the ornamented stalls of Strasbourg’s famous Christkindelsmärik, one of the oldest and largest Christmas markets in Europe. As you take in scents of mulled wine and spices, discover why Strasbourg is known as France’s “capitale de Noël.”

Day 3: Baden-Baden, Germany

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This morning we venture inland to the charming spa town of Baden-Baden, famous for its Roman baths. Choose between several ways to explore the city, including a guided tour of the old town or a hike to the 12th-century Hohenbaden Castle ruins, perched high above the town and offering breathtaking views of the surrounding Black Forest. Or visit the Mercedes-Benz factory to glimpse a state-of-the-art assembly line and learn the history of this iconic brand. In the evening, enjoy a private concert at a baroque palace.

Day 4: Heidelberg, Germany

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Discover the rich history and romantic cityscape of Heidelberg. Weather permitting, visit the ruins of the Renaissance-era Heidelberg Castle and hike back to the old town. Alternatively, tour the city’s picturesque baroque-style streets, or enjoy an exclusive visit to the World Heritage site of Grube Messel, a quarry renowned for its superbly preserved plant and animal fossils. One of the best preserved primate fossils in the world—nicknamed Ida—was discovered here in 1983, and then analyzed by National Geographic Emerging Explorer Jørn Hurum in 2009. This afternoon, we continue our cruise along the Rhine.

Day 5: Koblenz, Germany

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Arrive in Koblenz, situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Glide past the colossal equestrian statue of Emperor William I that presides over the two waterways, and observe the clash of colors where the waters meet. Disembark for a guided tour of this historic city, and delve into a colorful Christmas wonderland. During the holiday season, six of the city’s old squares are utterly transformed by sparkling lights, ornamented trees, cottage-style market stalls, and an Advent calendar fashioned out of the 24 dormers in the baroque-style town hall. Listen to traditional choirs while sampling Germany’s festive “fire cup” of mulled wine, potato fritters, and the famous Lebkuchenherzen gingerbread hearts. Alternatively, explore Cochem, a medieval gem nestled in the Moselle River Valley. A guided tour culminates in a visit to the Reichsburg Castle, a fairytale cluster of conical towers perched high above the town.

Day 6: Cologne, Germany

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Go ashore in Cologne, and gaze up at the intricate twin spires of the city's iconic cathedral—one of the only structures left standing in the city following the heavy air raids of World War II. Explore Cologne’s extensive cultural offerings, including dozens of acclaimed museums and galleries. Discover Romanesque churches and unique medieval structures, such as the stone city gates and the Town Hall. Alternatively, join an excursion to the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann, located near the site where the bones of an Ice Age human were recovered for the first time. Or discover the distinctive red-roofed stalls of the Cologne Christmas market at your own pace, in search of hand-made gifts for friends and family. Set sail for Amsterdam this afternoon.

Day 7: Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Arrive in the Dutch capital city of Amsterdam today, and set out to explore one of the many Christmas markets set along its picturesque canals. Sample delicious treats such as oliebollen, Dutch doughnuts, or poffertjes, small pancakes topped with butter and powdered sugar. Choose to explore the city’s medieval canals on a boat cruise, or opt for a guided tour of the Rijksmuseum, home to historical exhibitions that tell the story of the Netherlands, as well as masterpieces by famous Dutch painters from Rembrandt to Vermeer. Alternatively, head outside the city to discover the colorful fishing towns of Volendam and Edam, where vendors sell Dutch favorites such as herring and the famed Edam cheese.

Day 8: Amsterdam, Netherlands

After breakfast onboard, transfer to the airport in Amsterdam and connect with your flight home.

What to Expect

This trip has an activity rating of light\/moderate and suits a range of interests and abilities. Travelers should be physically fit and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods, navigating uneven or slippery terrain, and climbing stairs without handrails. Choose from a variety of excursions, from short walking tours to options for extended hiking and biking.

Accommodations
This is an all-inclusive experience aboard a world-class river ship featuring fine dining, exceptional amenities, and butler service.

Expedition Team

A National Geographic expert and a National Geographic photographer will accompany the entire trip, and local experts will join us along the way.

ACCOMMODATIONS
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The state-of-the-art Scenic Crystal and her sister ship Scenic Jewel were custom built to navigate the inland waterways of Europe. Each vessel features four decks and a variety of casual and upscale dining options; and a one-to-three staff-to-guest ratio ensures the highest level of service. A National Geographic expert and photographer accompany each departure.

Capacity: 169 guests in 85 outward-facing suites

Overall Length: 445 feet

Public Areas: Each vessel is outfitted with four decks, including a spacious all-weather sun deck with comfortable lounge furniture for relaxation and al fresco dining. The ship also holds three elegant dining areas as well as indoor bar and lounge areas, all equipped with expansive panoramic windows.

Meals: Fare served on board is inspired by regional cuisine from the destinations visited along your journey. The main dining area offers buffet and à la cart options three times daily, and exquisite multi-course meals with wine pairings are served upon invitation in three intimate dining areas. The more casual café offers light meals and snacks, and a bar and lounge has a robust menu of wine, beer, and spirits.

Suites: All suites face outwards and are equipped with en suite bathrooms, and most have private balconies that can be converted into all-weather sun lounges. Select suites offer spacious lounge areas and larger bathrooms. Each accommodation is equipped with a high-definition television and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Special Features: Wellness center, fitness center and rooftop walking track, and gift shop. A National Geographic expert and photographer accompany each voyage.

PRICES & DATES

  • date Dec 09-16 Dec
  • Prices From Per Person
  • Ship Scenic Crystal
  • extensions yes

Trip PricesPer Person

Accommodations
Double Occupancy
Single Occupancy
Standard Suite (E)
Double Occupancy
$5,025 AUD
Single Occupancy
$9,600 AUD
Standard Suite (D)
Double Occupancy
$5,220 AUD
Single Occupancy
$9,990 AUD
Balcony Suite (C)
Double Occupancy
$6,170 AUD
Single Occupancy
$11,890 AUD
Balcony Suite (BA)
Double Occupancy
$6,450 AUD
Single Occupancy
$12,450 AUD
Balcony Suite (BB)
Double Occupancy
$6,500 AUD
Single Occupancy
$12,550 AUD
Balcony Suite (A)
Double Occupancy
$6,520 AUD
Single Occupancy
$12,590 AUD
Balcony Suite (PA)
Double Occupancy
$6,570 AUD
Single Occupancy
$12,690 AUD
Deluxe Balcony Suite (BD)
Double Occupancy
$6,600 AUD
Single Occupancy
$12,750 AUD
Balcony Suite (PP)
Double Occupancy
$6,600 AUD
Single Occupancy
$12,750 AUD
Junior Balcony Suite (BJ)
Double Occupancy
$6,750 AUD
Single Occupancy
$13,050 AUD
Deluxe Balcony cabin (PD)
Double Occupancy
$6,920 AUD
Single Occupancy
$13,390 AUD
Junior Balcony Suite (RJ)
Double Occupancy
$7,120 AUD
Single Occupancy
$13,790 AUD
Royal Balcony Suite (RA)
Double Occupancy
$8,020 AUD
Single Occupancy
$15,590 AUD
Royal Balcony Suite (R)
Double Occupancy
$8,320 AUD
Single Occupancy
$16,190 AUD
Royal Panorama Suite (RS)
Double Occupancy
$8,570 AUD
Single Occupancy
$16,690 AUD
Royal Owner's Suite (RO)
Double Occupancy
$9,620 AUD
Single Occupancy
$18,790 AUD
Single Balcony Suite (BS)
Double Occupancy
Sold Out
Single Occupancy
$7,415 AUD

Deck Plans

Jewel Deck
Sapphire Deck
Diamond Deck

All trip prices are per person based on double occupancy, are subject to change without notice and do not include airfare.

  • Transfers upon arrival and departure
  • Accommodation aboard a world-class ship operated by Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours
  • All meals, from dinner on the first night to breakfast on the final morning
  • Daily activities and excursions as indicated in the itinerary
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • All gratuities

What's Not Included

  • Airfare to and from destination
  • Trip cancellation insurance or any other travel insurance
  • Visas
Gianluca Colla
Photographer
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Gianluca Colla has photographed around the world, from the Arctic Circle to Africa’s deserts and from the Amazon to the Alps. Originally from Italy and now based in Switzerland, he has traveled extensively around Europe. Gianluca’s work has been published in National Geographic magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, The New York Times, and The Washington Post and for clients such as Apple, Canon, and Fujifilm, among others. He has covered a diverse range of topics including the secrets of the longest-living centenarians in the world, a lost Da Vinci painting, and hidden mummies in Sicilian crypts. Gianluca also lectures on photography and enjoys teaching and inspiring others through storytelling and imagery. His work is represented in the National Geographic Image Collection.

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  • Dec 9-16, 2020 - Scenic Crystal
Alexander Murphy
Geographer
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Alexander (Alec) Murphy is at the forefront of the movement to combat geographical illiteracy in the United States. A geography professor at the University of Oregon, Alec is Senior Vice-President of the American Geographical Society, a past president of the American Association of Geographers, and a frequent advisor on National Geographic education initiatives. Research, speaking invitations, and travel have taken him to more than 100 countries on six continents. Throughout his career, much of Alec’s work has focused on Europe; his book, The European Culture Area (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), is the most widely used classroom text on the geography of Europe in the United States. In the late 1990s he began extending his focus to the Middle East and North Africa, and by the early 2000s Alec found himself increasingly drawn to various parts of Asia. He is now a regular visitor to China, and he recently became the first foreigner to give a plenary lecture at the opening session of the Chinese Geographical Society’s annual meeting. Alec holds a bachelor’s degree in archaeology from Yale University, a law degree from the Columbia University School of Law, and a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Chicago. Drawing on his expertise in political, cultural, and environmental geography, he will offer his insights into the human and physical forces shaping the places we visit.

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  • Dec 9-16, 2020 - Scenic Crystal